The Process I Use When Optimizing New vs. Existing Content

Content optimization framework: when & why to optimize content

Andreea Macoveiciuc

Written on 1st February, 2020 |

9 min read

Share this article

Content optimization happens in two situations:

  1. When creating a new page or article, or

  2. When an existing page or article is underperforming, thus requires improvements

We’ll go through both situations and look at the processes and best practices for each case.

NOTE: This article is destined for content writers/marketers and SEO specialists who are looking to understand the thinking process and strategy behind optimizing content. It is not indented for beginners and it assumes that you are already familiar with the basics of SEO.

Although you can use any tool that you like, I recommend at least getting familiar with GA, GSC, and the Keyword planner, as well as with tools like Keywords everywhere, SEMrush / Ahrefs / Moz, Answer the public, etc.

Content optimization for a new page / article

In this case, you don’t have any data to base your decision on, especially if it’s a completely new project, such as a new website. Still, you can approach the on-page SEO work — research, optimization, localization of content — from 2 different angles:

  1. By focusing on traffic

  2. By focusing on conversions

Focusing on traffic means that you care more about the number of visitors and less about the quality of these visitors. This is typical when starting a project, especially if the niche is not new and there’s already established competition.

In this case, it’s likely that your metrics will be:

  • Traffic — sessions, page views, new vs. recurring visitors

  • Content consumption — time on page, average pages/session, bounce rate, exit rate, CTR

Focusing on conversions means that you care less about the number of visitors and more about the actions that these visitors take after reading your page.

In this case, your metrics are likely to be:

  • Content conversions — newsletter subscriptions, downloads of e-books, etc.

  • Product conversions — accounts created, calls/e-mails, forms submitted, event registrations, demo requests, product purchases, meetings scheduled, etc.

We’ll look at each of these in detail and explain when you should use one strategy versus the other, what metrics to track, and what results to expect.

Focusing on traffic when optimizing content

Summary of this approach

When to use this strategy:

  • When you’re launching a new website or blog or trying to increase the overall organic traffic, social following, and e-mail list.

  • This strategy is also the right choice when doing brand awareness.

Results to expect:

  • High organic traffic, but also high bounce and exit rates and low CTR. If the quality of the content is high, you can expect higher engagement, thus better content consumption metrics.

When to switch to focusing on conversions:

  • Although this varies greatly depending on the niche, I would recommend waiting until you have an established audience between 10.000–50.000 visitors/month, most of them recurring.

Optimization process when focusing on traffic

This process is general and is meant to give you a framework to work with when approaching a new project. By having a process in place, you’ll be ready to start right away and you’ll eliminate a lot of the guesswork and insecurities.

However, this process is not set in stone and it’s not an industry-standard neither. Feel free to personalize it as needed.

Steps:

  1. Identify the service, product, or solution that you want to promote.

  2. Identify the search queries/keywords that you want to be found for when users search for those services/solutions/products. Look at synonyms and variations of those queries and create a list of queries and keywords (short- and long-tail) to optimize the content.

  3. Optimize the content. Make sure that you use synonyms and create context by describing the topic in depth. Since your purpose is to generate more traffic, the on-page optimization is just the first part. The second part of the process is the actual promotion. Do not skip these steps if you don’t have an established audience yet.

  4. Share the page/article in communities that might be interested in the topic.

  5. Find websites, blogs, and industry magazines that might be interested in featuring your work.

  6. Share the page/article with your subscribers and followers, if any.

Focusing on conversions when optimizing content

Summary of this approach

When to use this strategy:

  • When you have a stable or growing monthly audience (of at least 10.000 visitors) and you’re looking to push conversions. This can mean generating more leads for products, solutions, or services, selling more products, acquiring new newsletter subscribers, attracting participants to an event, etc.

Results to expect:

  • Increase in content consumption, higher click-through rate, increase in (micro)conversions, and CR.

What to do next:

  • If you’re attracting the right traffic and they click through, but they abandon in the last steps, your next step shouldn’t be to go back to optimizing for traffic. Instead, look at your UX, at the copy of the page, and at the actual offer (product, solution, or service).

  • Use A/B testing, surveys, and listening to sales calls for optimizing the page or article further.

Optimization process when focusing on conversions

This process is general and is meant to give you a framework to work with when approaching a new project. By having a process in place, you’ll be ready to start right away and you’ll eliminate a lot of the guesswork and insecurities.

However, this process is not set in stone and it’s not an industry-standard neither. Feel free to personalize it as needed.

Steps:

  1. Identify the user pain point/need.

  2. Come up with a topic idea that is relevant to that problem and is related to the solution that you’re offering.

  3. Identify the queries and keywords that can push the user through the funnel and create a content sequence (a funnel) based on these.

  4. Optimize each article in the sequence based on its goal — attract, convince, convert, retain.

A note on conversions and user intent

To generate conversions, you need content that addresses the user's pain point/ need and responds to the user intent.

If a user just wants to find an answer to a question, he’s probably not interested in buying anything. Thus, you shouldn’t expect a product conversion here.

The user might see the snippet of your article in the SE, click through to read the full answer/article, and then leave. From this type of user, with this intent, you can expect high traffic and high bounce rates.

If a user wants to gain deeper knowledge on a topic, he might convert by subscribing to your newsletter, downloading an e-book, buying a book or a course, registering to a workshop or webinar, signing up for an online course.

However, to push the conversion for users with this intent, you need to offer enough valuable content for free. This can be a snippet, a preview, a few chapters, etc.

If a user wants to buy a service/solution, he might request a call or a demo before committing for a longer-term. Thus, you can expect this type of intermediary conversions instead of direct purchases. These are excellent, as they qualify those visitors further, and make the sale easier.

To facilitate the conversion, in this case, you can offer social proof, testimonials, case studies, free demos/trial versions of your product.

If a user wants to buy a product, he might convert immediately if the product information is complete and the price is fair. In this case, there’s no need to add intermediary CTAs for micro-conversions. Let the user buy right away.

Before starting to optimize a page based on user intent, with the goal of generating conversions, look at queries that show this intent. Ideally, you want to optimize for long-tail keywords, as these are more specific and usually reflect more clearly the user intent.

If you see queries that reflect user needs/pain points, but the intention isn’t clear, you can push the visitors towards conversions by creating a series of pages that are mapped to the sales funnel.

For example, a user is searching using a query like “repair washing machine”. It’s hard to tell if he needs the service, some pieces or he wants to know the steps of the process. Since you’re not sure about the intent, you can create a landing page that promotes your service (washing machine repairing) and one article that shares knowledge for free.

In this case, if the user wanted the knowledge, he will probably not buy your service. He will read and might call for some expert advice, but he will probably not hire you.

However, if the user needed the service, he might call, ask for references, check your social profiles for additional proof or testimonials, check reviews, and so on. So you want to have all those on the landing page.

What types of content can you optimize for conversions?

Not all content is meant to convert users to customers, and some niches and types of content work better than others for converting visitors with content marketing.

Generally, the types of content that work better for conversions address a purchase intent:

  • Product use cases

  • Customer success stories

  • Product or solution comparison

  • Product or solution alternatives

  • Service pricing

With such topics, you already know that the user wants to convert.

If a user is searching for “best dishwashers for small families”, he’s probably interested in buying, not just curious to learn. If he’s searching for “Dell vs HP laptop”, he’s probably looking to buy something, not just to compare products for general knowledge.

If you need help in deciding what types of content to produce for every stage of the sales funnel, get in touch with our team. We'll audit your content, set KPIs, and build a content strategy that gives you the full picture.

Content optimization for an existing page / article

In this case, the process will be reversed and we’ll start by analyzing the current situation compared to the desired situation. For this, we’ll look at:

  1. The target audience of the page

  2. The goal of the page — your expected result, for example, to generate leads, get newsletter subscribers, generate more traffic, rank higher for a specific query, etc.

  3. Current performance of the page, depending on the goal — position in SE, what queries the page is found for, what’s the CTR and CR, new vs. recurring visitors, etc.

  4. Optimization opportunities — here, you can take two approaches:  

    1. You can optimize the page for your desired queries — in this case, you’ll lose some traffic, but you’ll get better-qualified visitors;

    2. You can optimize it for the queries that it’s already found for — you’ll have to rewrite most of the content, including meta title, meta description, etc.

Framework for optimizing an existing page/article

If you’re looking at optimizing the existing article, I will assume that you have more than 10 articles already published and that you’re not getting the expected results.

This framework is intended to guide you in deciding what articles to optimize and it gives you the steps to follow during the content optimization process.

We’ll just take the case of optimizing for traffic generation, but the process is the same if you optimize for conversions — lead generation, product sales, etc.

Deciding which pages to optimize

To simplify things and keep the scope smaller in the beginning, look at the 20% of pages that generate 80% of your organic traffic. You should find this data in GA.

Identify the group of pages that generate most of your organic traffic and include them in Group 1.

Then, create a second group for optimization by looking at the 20% of pages shared via social media that generate 80% of your referral traffic. Again, look for this data in GA and include these pages in Group 2.

Do the same for the main industries or segments that you target and create new groups of pages to optimize.

Before starting the actual optimization, look at the potential revenue of these pages and at the cost of acquisition per customer in each case. If customers coming from social are the most profitable and cheapest to acquire, start the optimization work with that group and so on.

Optimizing the content in Group 1

The purpose of this process is to achieve customer-content fit. If you’re not familiar with this concept, take some time and read about it before moving further.

With this in mind, you need to optimize the article to meet the expectations of the user and to help the user achieve the goal, or get the job done.

How do you know what the user expects from your article/page? You can get an idea by looking at the queries that the page is found for in GSC. Write down the queries in a table similar to the one below:

content optimization

Now, look at the data that you have in the table. Are the user intent (reflected in the search queries), the article content (your hypothesis), and your goal all aligned? If not, optimize the article or page by aligning these three.

If you have pages with a lot of impressions but low CTRs, optimize the meta elements (title, description) also, to make it more relevant to the search intent.

If you have pages that receive more mobile than desktop traffic, optimize not only the content but also the structure, accessibility, readability, length of the page. It’s safe to take a mobile-first approach for all your content if you have a high number of users coming from mobile devices.

Repeat this process for all pages or articles that fall under the traffic generation goal, and then move to the ones created for generating leads or selling products or services.

I hope these guidelines bring some clarity and help you approach a content optimization project with more confidence.

Return to all articles

Learn from our experience

Receive actionable content strategy & marketing articles directly in your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter